Friday, March 09, 2007

Vermont Media Watch

TGIF, my friends. But before your not-so-friendly Snarky Boy makes a complete ass of himself by pretending he can dance, I had a few more things I needed to get off my chest. Let’s try a new formula to get a whole bunch of crap off my desk at once:

Bernie & Jane’s Swanky Night Out: Sam Hemingway at the Free Press’ great blog, VT Buzz, has the scoop on Bernie and Jane Sanders’ high-priced night out in Naples, Florida last weekend. Yep, the so-called man of the people was spending more than $1000 per night to stay in the Naples Ritz-Carlton. And he would have never mentioned it to those struggling dairy farmers he’s always pretending to help if he wasn’t caught in the lobby by – are you ready for this – Rich Tarrant. Richie-Rich is an ass in his own right, but how delicious must that moment have been for him? I mean, these are the kind of digs that we’d all expect Rich and his plastic wife to be bedding down in, but Bernie & Jane?!? Tarrant, of course, didn’t keep his sighting of Bernie secret, either, phoning up Vermont reporters until someone ran with it. Nice work, Sam, although – come on – this story fell right in your lap thanks to the still-bitter Tarrant. And the biggest question in all of this is: How much longer will Bernie get away with his little charade of being “connected” to the little guy? He’s gotten away with giving very little of his very large salary away to charity. He’s gotten away with putting his wife on his payroll to make his family even more money. He’s gotten away with have his wife make his media buys for his $6 million campaigns, thus funneling hundreds of thousands of dollars back to his family. And then he acts like he’s doing society a fucking favor by promoting a piss-ant increase in the “minimum” wage. If Bernie was for real, he’d pass up these oh-so pricey nights and send the check to one of those unemployed workers he likes to exploit by having them cry next to him during campaign season. Enough already.

Newspaper Blogs Shine: Speaking of newspaper blogs, it’s time for Snarky Boy to tip his hat to two that are shining bright of late. I’ve already mentioned the Free Press’ blog but not the person there that I’ve found the most readable: Terri Hallenbeck. A big hat-tip to you, Terri, for the fine blogging and back-story that you’re serving up. The other bright star is the new kid on the block, the Times-Argus’ Vermont View. Thankfully, it’s replaced the most dreadful blog of Darren Allen, the guy who jumped ship to work for the Douglas administration. The Vermont View just launched this week but Vermont Press Bureau reporter Dan Barlow is already making it a must stop on a daily basis. Both of these blogs seem to have figured out a great niche for the mainstream media and blogging: They’re pithy, readable, not what you’d find in the paper, and they’ve got the contacts and insider info to make them matter. The oh-so-many wannabe news bloggers in Vermont should take a few lessons from these two sites and realize that it’s content that matters, not whining, navel gazing and a free blogger account. How many times, for example, do these pros take photos of themselves or publicly meet to celebrate themselves? Never, because they’re too busy taking the craft of writing and journalism seriously, you dopes.

Newspaper headline of the day: “Clinton Embraces Platitudes.” And, no, it wasn’t from USA Today. That one came from this morning’s Washington Post. I kid you not. But because it was about Hillary, I didn’t bother to read it.

Peter Freyne Needs a Vacation: As you probably know, Snarky Boy gets lots of good tips and quips from media folk and – believe it or not – political players. Hey, it surprised me, too, until one of them said the obvious: “You’re doing and saying what we want to be doing and saying.” Well, who’s stopping you? Oh yeah, you’re not painting for a living…

But one of the most frequent comments I’m getting of late is about Freyne’s need to take a breather or seek a change of venues. I was all over him before his cancer diagnosis and, after he made the announcement, I held my tongue. But now he’s back and doing anything but holding his tongue so – damn it – he’s got to be fair game again.

“He’s just getting nastier,” is the typical kind of thing I’m hearing from folks, especially those who have to work around him and endure his “it’s all about me” approach to news conferences. Personally, I think he’s been mailing it in for quite some time, bored about his job and stuck in a column that he’s doing more by rote than inspiration. I mean, come on, how hard is it in Vermont to sing the praises of every incumbent politician except Douglas over and over and over again? Like I said, he’s mailing it in – and for a nice price, too. The 7 Daze ladies are, for whatever reason, infatuated with him and just keep shelling out the big bucks for his same old dopey stuff.

Take, for example, Freyne’s last print column. In a piece headlined, “Sen. Sanders Update,” Freyne writes what could have been a press release issued by Sanders’ office. In other words, not a peep about Bernie sleeping in high-priced hotels (with Tarrant, nonetheless), about Bernie sticking his finger in the eyes of the growing Vermont impeachment advocates, or about Bernie failing to lead a credible anti-war movement in the Senate. Nope. Instead, it was what we’ve all come to expect from Freyne when it comes to Bernie: All fluff all the time. Don’t believe me, consider this quote from Bernie that Freyne ended the piece with: “Parking is fine, and we have a nice office as well. A big office.” Yeah, and please, Bernie, hire Freyne to sit in that big office so you can spare us any more of his ass-kissing drivel.

Freyne then goes on to attack Shay Totten of the Vermont Guardian for his publishing decision to “go green” by ceasing the print edition of his weekly and, instead, focus on web publishing. Sounded like a good idea to me. In fact, Freyne seemed to piss his pants with excitement when Peter Welch went “carbon neutral” to help the environment, so why the hatred for the Guardian for going a step further? Oh yeah, jealousy. Trust me, Freyne hates competition, especially when he knows his own column is getting as tired as a fat man running a marathon.

But after taking silly shot after silly shot at Totten and the Guardian, Freyne follows it up with this headline: “Cancer Update.” It was, of course, an update on his cancer treatment. And while Snarky Boy obviously wishes him the best in that regard, I have to question his and his editors’ wisdom for allowing him to take nasty pot-shots at everyone he doesn’t like and then follow it up with an oh-by-the-way-I’ve-still-got-cancer-piece. So fine, if Freyne wants to attack – cancer or no cancer – Freyne’s got to expect some counter attacks.

Mark Johnson’s Awkward Moment: Let me preface this bit of snark by saying there is no one better at radio in the state of Vermont than Mark Johnson. I’ve said it here often and I’ll say it as often as I can: Johnson’s just damn good. Period. And, when my clients allow it, he gets me through many mornings of painting.

But I have to say he fumbled a bit today during his Bill Cosby interview. Yeah, Johnson interviewed Bill Cosby. How cool is that? To cut him some slack, Johnson didn’t get Cosby on until about 10 minutes before his show was ending, so it felt obviously rushed. Cosby was on to promote his upcoming show at the Flynn and to talk about his favorite subject: education, a not-so-off-topic for Vermont while we endure the revolting repeal crowd (or is it: Revolt & Repeal? Whatever).

The education talk was fine, if not merely superficial due to the time constraints. But then, as time was running out, Johnson asked this question: “Before you go, can I ask you what you think about Barack Obama’s campaign for president?”

Honestly, I winced when I heard the question. And, apparently, so did Cosby. But after a deep breath, Cosby responded with a very simple answer: “No.”

And why not? “Because,” continued Cosby, “it’s not necessary,” stopping before allowing a moment of silence that all but said: Just because I’m black doesn’t mean I have to care about, support or comment on a black candidate for president.

Then Cosby continued: “In this race, Hillary is running as a woman. But Obama is running as a black man.” And then, only moments later, time ran out and the Mark Johnson audience was left with a rather awkward moment to head into the weekend with.

Point taken, Bill. And I’d bet if Mark had it to do all over again, he’d either shit-can the question or present it in a different manner and – most importantly – with some more time to go back and forth on it.

Oh hell, I’ve got dancing to do. First beer’s on me….